Back to Business

With schools around the country back in session today I thought we’d talk about some of the basics that will help you be successful today and in the future in your business.

Supplies:
From the basics like paper, pens and envelopes to wrapping and packaging to computers and online accounts there are lots of supplies that most businesses need in order to run most successfully. The choices you make at this first and most basic levels of business can be absolutely crucial as they are the tools that you use to connect with customers and your team, as well as present your business to the world.

Teachers:
Part of being successful is about what you bring to the table, but you can jump start and leap frog your success if you take time to learn from others too. Having a mentor or several someones you can turn to both personally and specifically as well as from a distance gives you the ability to grow your business into a stronger business.

Questions:
In school you’re asked to answer questions on tests and in class, and in business you’re asked not only to answer the questions, but also often to come up with the questions. Questions not only help you make sure that you’ve got your bases covered, they also help you explore different opportunities and perspectives into how you can better serve customers and how you can grow your business.

Learning:
Whether you call it a trial period, beta stage, or growing pains, if you’re building and running a successful business there will be learning. You’ll learn what your customers want, how to speak to your customers, how to better address problems, how to work with employees, and how you can bring a better product or service to market. You won’t just learn these things once though, they’re things you’re learning throughout the life of your business.

So what are the basics of your business that are keys to your success?

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Are Parents the Problem?

I was talking recently with a nanny who comes from a family of many children and currently manages a family with 4 children. We got to talking about her experiences and her challenges, and she said something you may have heard before: the kids are a product of their parents. You may have heard something along those lines before, but probably not in the way that she means. For her, as a nanny when considering new families she always takes into greater consideration how the parents are than how the kids are, because she knows that the real issues and challenges (or fantastic experience) will come from the parents, not the kids. Yes, of course it’s challenging to work with kids who are unruly and throw tantrums and aren’t polite. But they often are that way because their parents have allowed them to be up to this point. That doesn’t really mean that the parents have failed, just that they really need to step up and take responsibility, or give responsibility to someone else (and not take over or micromanage).

Initially it’s not easy for the parents or kids, but over time kids do learn to interact differently with different people and in different situations. If you think about two classic examples, school and church, kids act much different at school and church than they do at home. At school you’re expected to use your brain, listen to adults and not be a bully and at church you’re expected to be quiet as a mouse and be on your extra best behavior (even at church picnics and fun events). However at home so many of the “rules” go out the window. In some ways it’s necessary to let go of some rules and give kids time to be kids, but the leadership from parents and respect for adults needs to stay in place at all times, and it can be difficult to be a leader and be respected when they’ve seen you down on your knees making train sounds during play with them.

So how do you get from being an unruly household to one that’s got usually well-behaved kids? Start with love, affection and attention. These three are super important because they show your kids that you do indeed care about them and want them to be part of your life. Follow that up by setting a good example, for example: if they see you disrespecting others (including themselves) when they’re talking by being on your phone, they’ll get the idea that it’s OK to ignore others too. Setting boundaries and time limits consistently can also help because you say that you need 5 minutes to do stuff and then they can have you for a game or to do something (or that you can play for x amount of time but at a specific time you need to go do your thing). Finally, don’t be afraid to screw up and make changes. What you teach them as you work through your mistakes can be as valuable as not making them in the first place. Employing a give-it-a-try attitude can make a big difference in how they approach problems and relationships of all kinds.

If you’re struggling as a parent, this week I would encourage you to make one small change in your relationship with your kids and that would be to love more, be more affectionate and give them your full attention. I’m not asking you to implement any real rules or make any big changes, just be more present for them and with them. What difference will a little love make in your life and theirs?

Failing in School

Today I’m thinking about the countless families around the US, and maybe even the world, who are preparing to enter another year or who have already begun. It will probably be a year that has challenging moments for you as a parent, and also for your kid or kids who are in school. Maybe the education aspect will be easy for you and your kids, maybe the only challenge will be the relationships between your kids and the other kids, or between your kid and their teacher(s). Maybe the only challenge you’ll face will be dreams and fears your kid has of being in school or things that could go wrong. But maybe the challenge you’ll face is with the education aspects and learning.

If you’re a good parent you’ll do your best to help and support your kids as they face the challenges of this new school year. Maybe that means hiring someone to help them or taking extra time personally to be with or work with them. Unfortunately, as good of a parent as you may be it’s highly likely that your kid will still face failures. They’ll screw up in ways that make their stomachs drop, they’ll feel guilty, they’ll not want to approach you with what’s going on and they may hide the truth. Sometimes there won’t be much you can do, and that will hurt you, and make you hurt for them.

While I do believe that life should be made of successes and victories, the fact is we all have to deal with failures. There are people in Texas who feel like a huge failure because they just lost all their belongings and didn’t have flood insurance. They feel like they’ve let down their families. But there’s no way you can prepare for or stop a hurricane, just like you can’t stop your kids from being who they are and learning the lessons they’ll learn. The best thing you can do is to be there to help them pick themselves up after they fall and help them get back on track with love and support.

The other thing you can do is make it a priority to celebrate at least one good thing that your kids did each week. That way when the failures and challenges happen, your kids know that you’ll support them through the good and the challenges. How do you help your kids when they fail?

Bully Free School Zone

Last week we started a conversation about two of the challenges that kids going back to school face, and we started by looking at drugs. Today we’re going to talk about a topic that is definitely more talked about with relationship to kids and teens, but can affect adults as well: bullying. According to the dictionary a bully is “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. A man hired to do violence.” In some ways the second definition would make it easier if that was the majority of the way that bullying happened, but more often than not there’s no money involved, it’s someone who picks on others.

Let’s start by being completely honest. Almost all of us have at one point in time or another throughout our lives picked on someone else. Maybe we did it as part of a crowd, maybe we were there when others did it, and maybe it was done in jest, but most of us have experienced what it’s like to bully or pick on someone. When you’re bullying others or picking on them there’s definitely a rush that you experience, a feeling of power and domination, and it can be seductive. I get that, really I do. But there are so many better ways to experience a rush and be in power than to beat down on someone else.  If you’re someone who tends to bully or pick on other people I strongly encourage you to work on your interpersonal skills and channel that energy into more productive activities like skydiving or catching alligators.

The other feeling that most of us experience (because we’re not true bullies) is the feeling of guilt. That’s the feeling we need to keep at the forefront of our minds when we think about getting involved with a bully or bully someone ourselves. The other feeling we need to keep in mind when considering bullying is of course what the person being bullied feels, which again is something that most of us can understand. Maybe you’ve never been a true target that faced incessant, debilitating or viral bullying, but just about every one of us has been picked on at some point in time or another. It does not feel good to be the target of one or many individuals picking on you, how you look, what you say, how you say it, what you did, who your family is or where you live, or any other number of things that you may have been picked on regarding.

If you’re facing bullying or your kids are, or if you’re just wanting to prepare them for if and when it happens, start with talking about how bullying feels and why it’s wrong with them, and let them know that you’re there for them should they be bullied, as are their teachers and the other adults in their lives. Second, it’s important to instill self-confidence and teach them to value themselves for whomever they are, whatever they like, however they look and wherever they go. They don’t have to be the same as anyone else, they can and should be their own person with their own interests and appearance. Third, don’t let them dismiss it more than once from a person. Sometimes the best thing to do is ignore the person or people and they’ll stop. But if it happens again they (and you) have to learn to stand up for themselves and ask for help if they need it. Maybe the help isn’t someone charging in and demanding the person stop (maybe it is), maybe it’s just giving and/or teaching the person the resources they need to fight this particular bullying situation and individual or group.

With the number of bullying related suicides each year becoming more publicly known more schools and businesses are taking a stand against those who would be bullies or try to demean people. While we still have a long way to go, it’s good that we’re having discussions about it and taking steps to stop it before there are even more bullying-related suicides each year. So the question is, what are you going to do to stop bullying?

Sometimes School Stinks

Schools are officially in full swing and kids are getting back into their schedules and of course doing lots of homework.   I graduated from both high school and college, attended both public and private schools and attended 3 different colleges in different states during my college years, so I’ve seen some of what the educational world has to offer.  I’ve had some great teachers, I’ve had some teachers who had great personalities even if I don’t remember learning anything, I’ve had a ton of forgettable teachers, and I’ve had teachers who were terrible in more ways than one.

I’ve also met lots of of people having worked in schools and with kids outside of my own educational experience, plus owning my own business has introduced me to many people.  I know people from all around the world, and while their corners of the world may be a little different than mine, there are things that are unfortunately the same throughout the world that we need to pay attention to so that we can make the world a better place for the next generation.

School was created as a way to make sure that everyone learns certain things, like reading, writing and math.  We’re all exposed to some science, history and physical education as well, but those are less memorable for many of us.  Today I want to take just a couple minutes to talk about something that we don’t really like to admit: school failures.  I’ve already spoken to one of those negatives: teachers who stink.  Some teachers just don’t care about the kids, they’re just in it for the paycheck.  They share the same info every year and don’t take the time to make it come to life for new students, or consider the interests of their new students to add additional aspects to the classes.  It’s unfortunate because at some point in time they probably were passionate and did bring life to what they teach, they just don’t anymore.  As a parent there’s not a lot you can do other than encourage your kid to do the best they can and just get through it.  Sure, you can bring it up to the school board, but that doesn’t always work out in your favor and may do more harm than good.

Issue number two is that schools don’t always teach what people really need to know.  Because of the fact that I work with a wide variety of businesses some of my education that may not apply to others has been practically helpful, but much of it has not been, especially with the availability of Google and answers being a couple of clicks away.  There are many other skills that I wish had been taught but weren’t.  As a parent the best thing you can do is help teach some of those things at home and get kids involved in activities and learning experiences that are available extracurricularally.

Finally is an issue that we’ll talk about in greater depth in the coming weeks: bullying.  Relationships are the building blocks of our world.  If we aren’t able to create relationships of all kinds it’s much harder to do our jobs and live our lives.  There will always be some who are just bad people, but I believe most people don’t grow up wanting to be bad, they want to stand out or finally find acceptance.  If it’s your kid doing the bullying make sure to put an immediate stop to it and teach them better ways of interacting with others.  If they’re the target of a bully, encourage them to stand up for themselves and try to help the bully see the error of their ways, but if they don’t and adults aren’t able to intervene and turn the behaviors around, it’s time for new friends and acquaintances.

What lessons about school have you learned?

Thank You Teachers

September usually marks the return to school for kids around the US. Returning to school after summer break is challenging not just for kids, but for parents and teachers too. Kids may be the ones going to school each day but the teachers and parents play very important roles in their education, roles that aren’t always appreciated or recognized.  Today I want to focus on the teachers.

I’ve had some really good ones, some ones I’ve forgotten (that means they were average or unremarkable), and some that were bad. I don’t know if it is because of their age, the other kids in the class, the subject material, the environment or what, but some teachers just seem miserable. Much of this unfortunately has to do with all of the rules, regulations and things they need to remember and try to cram into the students before the end of the school year. It’s a lot of pressure but there isn’t necessarily a better way to do it and get all the information to the students before they’re 18 and thinking about families, jobs and the future.

But the good ones, they’re people that forever change you. They make you think happy thoughts even if most of your school memories were not happy. For me, there was my second grade teacher, and two in high school (a math and a history) that always stood out to me.  That there are only 3 that I really learned from and am happy to remember out of all the teachers I had says something about our teachers.

I think we need to start by giving our teachers some slack for all they have to deal with and the pressure we put on them. It isn’t easy to manage all the kids, teach them something and follow the rules of the school or education system all at the same time and in such a time constraint, not to mention all the outside factors like personal life, kid’s parents and the world.

Second, we need to do a better job supporting and encouraging them. It’s important to tell them how much they matter and how much we appreciate what they do. We also need to make sure that they’re given the money to do their jobs well. Every kid doesn’t need a computer, but essentials like books and paper shouldn’t be scrimped on.

But just like the rest of us, teachers don’t have any right to be grumpy and miserable just because things aren’t easy or perfect. Our world doesn’t usually work that way, usually we all need to stand up for the important things. Let’s stand up this week for our teachers.

“I’m embarrassed every time I look a teacher in the eye, because we ask them to do so much for so little.” Phil McGraw

Putting the Puzzle Together

We’ve reached another school season, another year of making new friends, playing with old ones and growing older and hopefully smarter.  There are lots of challenges kids face as they go back to school and work through another year, one of the biggest is the other students they meet.  Most parents like to believe that their kid is perfect and amazing and has very few faults.  But just as we know how unique the other adults in our lives are, the same is true for kids: they know they’re each different and those differences can be seen as threats or weaknesses depending on the child and the group they’re with.  What would be seen as a weakness by one group is seen as a strength by another group.  The teachers they interact with also play a role: the differences that make them unique and could give them a solid future will be supported, discouraged or ignored depending on the teacher.  Just because a kid is different doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable or special.  But it can be hard to teach that to kids, especially if we’re not living that way.

I’m not a big competition person.  I don’t like to sit and talk about how much more I made this year than you or how many clients I have or how much more awesome I am at this or that.  I don’t like to compare myself to others because I know I’m unique and special and there is no one else I can really compare to other than myself.  I know this isn’t true for everyone, lots of people thrive on competition, hence all the sports and reality shows on TV and around the world. I can appreciate that.  What I can’t appreciate is a lack of respect for other people or those that don’t engage in competition and hardballing.  The only thing that I believe should bring about a lack of respect is abuse or violence.

I’d much rather work together in our different ways to make the world a better place.  I love the world that we have but know that there is a lot that we could be doing to treat ourselves and our world better like recycling, not being wasteful, exercising and loving more.   My encouragement to you this week would be to see how you can fit your piece of the puzzle with someone else’s and make it work even though you’re different.

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
Albert Camus